Astonished by Belief and by Unbelief

There were a few occasions when Jesus was amazed and moved by a person’s faith. The centurion with a sick servant is one example. The woman who’d touched the hem of his robe and received her healing is another, and the foreign woman who asked him to heal her child from the “crumbs from the master’s table” is another.

Jesus had compassion for all, and sometimes healed people without their having to exercise their faith. But on these occasions, what moved and drew power from him was a demonstration of belief in God’s ability and willingness to heal them. These were people that Jesus not only healed instantaneously but commended publicly for their faith.

Jesus was also amazed when people were hardhearted or unbelieving.

He was amazed that the Pharisees, who were the guardians and teachers of Jewish law, could not recognize that he was the Messiah standing in their midst. Those who knew the Scriptures best seemed to be least equipped to recognize the arrival of the King. John’s Gospel tells us, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:11-12). He harshly upbraided as hypocrites those religious leaders who “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” He was amazed at hard hearts that would refuse to enter the grace of God and would impede others from doing so (Matt. 23:13).

Jesus was amazed at the unbelief he encountered in his hometown of Nazareth. These were his own family, his own tribe. They had watched him grow up and they must have known the story of the miracles surrounding his conception and birth. Even after tales of astonishing miracles (see Mark 5), the people of Nazareth could not or would not honor him as the Promised One, or even as a prophet who should be revered. He said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Because of their unbelief, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”

 “And he was “amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6).

Even Jesus followers and closest disciples surprised him with their lack of faith. They were astonished over and over by his teaching, by his healings, by his walking on the water, or calming a raging storm.

Jesus presented faith as such a simple thing, and yet to human ears, what they were experiencing in his presence defied their comprehension. On the road to Emmaus, the resurrected Christ listened to the confused lament of two disciple about his recent crucifixion. He proclaimed to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25)!

People were astonished by Jesus as he ministered in truth, authority, and the manifest power of God. Jesus was delighted when people responded with faith. But Jesus was astonished also when people could not take in and accept by faith who he was and what his coming meant for them.

In his gospel, all it takes is the faith of a child. A tiny bit of faith the size of a mustard seed allows us to command a mountain to jump into the sea.

Most of us, unfortunately, have to fight against unbelief for the entirety of our Christian walk. It is a rare saint indeed who daily walks in the fully energized and activated power of the risen Lord, expecting miracles as a matter of course.

I am not there yet, but this is my aspiration–to please and astonish my Lord with the tenacity and depth of my faith in him and what he is achieving in me. That is–transforming me with “ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18)! And I strive to never cause him grief by an unbelieving heart.

I love you Lord. Amen.

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